Saturday 23rd April saw the Essex Giro, the second round of the HSBC British Cycling National Women’s Road Series, held on a course taking in the villages of Thurlow, Great Wratting and Withersfield in the county of Suffolk. The twelve laps of this shortish course were to be ridden for a total race distance of 95km.
The field included Tour of the Wolds and series leader Lizzy Banks (SunSport Velo) and Grace Garner and Amy Roberts (Wiggle-High5), as well as up and coming riders such as Charmaine Porter (Team Ford Ecoboost) and Sian Botteley (Cycle Team OnForm).
With a wave of the Union Flag, local MP Matthew Hancock sent the riders off on a first lap that saw Chanel Mason (Team Storey) start as she meant to go on with an early attack and a relatively high tempo from the peloton which led to several riders being dropped on the first lap. Over the next few laps as the race progressed, she remained ever present near the front, with Team Ford Ecoboost and SunSport Velo determined to cover any action.
For the next few laps the race progressed with teams pushing the pace at the front. On occasions the peloton became stretched with a few meters of daylight between groups and riders being lost off the back. The decisive break came at the bottom of the climb to the finish on lap eight with Mason powering away up the hill and Garner and Porter the only riders able to response.
Initially the peloton was unable to get organised and the gap rose from fifteen seconds, thirty seconds, and at one point a minute. With two laps to go, SunSport Velo upped the pace, cutting the lead to fifteen seconds and in the break Garner appeared to be struggling. Mason responded, pushing the lead back over thirty seconds with Garner working hard not to be dropped off the back of the break. On the final lap it was clear that the three breakaway riders would occupy the podium places.
On the finish hill for the final time Mason attacked first with Porter responding and Garner biding her time. With a few hundred metres to go Garner made her move, passing Porter and Mason. By the time she crossed the line Garner had clear lead over Porter in second place and time for a long two-arm celebration of her second consecutive Essex Giro, having also won last year’s edition when the race actually took place in Essex.
Mason crossed the line a few seconds later in third, a position that would see her take the Series Leader jersey as well as secure Team Storey in top place in the team standing – she also took the award for the day’s most combative rider.
The bunch sprint and fourth place was taken by a beaming Karla Boddy (Team Corley Cycles). Botteley took fifth place; a result that would move her in to third place in the Series.
For the presentations it was nice to see the British Cycling podium trailer being used, replacing the all-too-often used milk crates or the like that end up being used when the men’s series is not on the same day.
Garner, Porter and Mason made the most of the podium and the presentation bubbly, giving each other a soaking. As well as the most combative rider jersey, a delighted Mason was presented with the Series Leader jersey. Given her current form, her rivals will need to work hard to relieve her of it.
Following the race we spoke with Grace Garner. “It was hard, a very hard race – I just happened to be in the right place at the right time when the move went. To be honest, I was gone with a couple of laps to go and I really thought that was my race over. The other girls went a little bit too early and I was pretty confident that I would have the kick in the end.”
Charmaine Porter commented, “It was tough, we were trying to cover anything and have a rider in it.” Porter also talked about her second place: “I can’t quite believe it to be honest, I didn’t think I would ever be there.”
After the race Chanel Mason revealed the Team Storey strategy. “We had a plan to try and make this as hard as we could because it’s fairly flat for some of us within the team who came up today. We were briefed by Barney [DS Barney Storey] to make it hard.”
After the race Lizzie Banks revealed that she had crashed, causing a mechanical that impacted the rest of her race. “I went in straight into a hedge, my rear wheel came out, the quick release flicked up, I thought I had fixed the brake, the break went of the front and I was almost there but I simply didn’t have the legs.”
Sian Botteley spoke about her race. “It was pretty hard, I went off the front with Kelly Murphy for a lap and that felt really, really good. I didn’t intend to attack, I just rolled through and we had twenty or thirty metres. We got caught after another lap and I didn’t really feel that great so when the break went we missed it, so I sat in and tried to save myself for the sprint, fifth wasn’t too bad.”
1 Grace Garner (Wiggle-High5; Elite) 60pts
2 Charmaine Porter (Ford Ecoboost; Cat. 2) 52pts
3 Chanel Mason (Storey Racing; Cat. 1) 45pts
4 Karla Boddy (Corley Cycles; Cat. 2) 40pts
5 Sian Botteley (Team OnForm; Cat. 1) 35pts
6 Jenn George (Storey Racing; Cat. 1) 31pts
7 Jennifer Powell (Ford Ecoboost; Cat. 1) 27pts
8 Amy Hill (Team OnForm; Cat. 1) 23pts
9 Georgina Panchaud (Bianchi Dama UK; Cat. 2) 20pts
10 Laura Massey (Drops; Cat. 1) 17pts
11 Elizabeth Banks (SunSport Velo; Cat. 2) 15pts
12 Natalie Grinczer (WNT; Cat. 1) 13pts
13 Alicia Speake (Team OnForm; Cat. 1) 11pts
14 Jennifer Hudson (Fusion RT/Fierlan; Cat. 2) 9pts
15 Lucy Horrocks (Vertex-Biemme RT; Cat. 3) 7pts
16 Julie Erskine (Team OnForm; Cat. 1) 6pts
17 Lorna Bowler (Backstedt/Hotchillee; Cat. 2) 5pts
18 Bethany Taylor (Vertex-Biemme RT; Cat. 2) 3pts
19 Elizabeth Burrows (SunSport Velo; Cat. 3) 2pts
20 Kelly Murphy (Ford Ecoboost; Cat. 2) 1pts
(Text and photos © Simon F. Blackwell)